Co-op announces plan to be world’s first supermarket to produce carbon neutral own-brand food and drink within five years

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The Co-op has announced that it will be the first supermarket to sell fully carbon neutral own brand food and drink by 2025. The world-first move by a major supermarket is a radical part of an ambitious ten-point climate plan to achieve net zero carbon emission by 2040 – ten years ahead of the government’s own ambition.

From products and packaging to power and pension fund investments, the comprehensive plan details how the Co-op will reduce the direct and indirect impacts of all the food and drink it sells and its wider operations. The Co-op also reported that it had achieved carbon neutral status across its Food, Funeralcare, Insurance and Power businesses, including its 2,600 food stores and 800 funeral homes.

In an industry-first move, Co-op will price match its plant-based GRO range against equivalent meat products. It will make its entire 200-strong home delivery fleet electric, end the use of fossil fuel heating, lower farm agricultural emissions, cut packaging and reduce impacts from soy in animal feed.

The plan sets out targets, endorsed by the Science-based Targets Initiative, to cap global temperature increases and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which came into force in 2016 and created a global pact of almost 200 countries to tackle climate change.

Co-op Food CEO, Jo Whitfield, said “We are facing a monumental climate change crisis entirely of our own making. We must recognise that we are in part responsible and that we have to do more and quicker… We are sharing the action we are taking, unveiling a comprehensive plan rooted in science. Emissions from our operations and our own-brand products are where we have the greatest responsibility and can make the biggest difference”.

The Co-op will report back each year on its progress and has called on the Government be bold in demonstrating world class leadership to tackle the climate crisis, and to give credibility for a bold level of ambition for the targets they seek to set at COP-26. The Co-op calls on Government take some immediate steps, including:

– Mandating all businesses to report their full end to end greenhouse gas emissions.
– Reaffirm its target of 0.7% of gross national income to international aid and development, including for investment in climate resilience, without delay.
– Greater transparency and penalties to prevent further deforestation, particularly for the production of soy.

The Co-op’s unique Ethical Consumerism Report, which has tracked ethical expenditure year-by-year over the past two decades, reveals that sales of meat-free and dairy-free products have increased by 25% and 28% and that almost one in three people intend to eat less meat and dairy than before. The report shows that sales of vegetarian and plant-based alternatives have doubled in a decade, up from £541m in 2010 to over £1bn. Green finance has topped £46.5bn while green home measures have also doubled in sales since 2010.

The Co-op’s Ten-Point Climate Plan:

1. Make long-term changes to how we do business. We will be a net zero business by 2040, for both our operations and for our products.

2. Set clear short-term milestones. We will reduce the impact of our operations by 50% and our products by 11%, both by 2025, in line with climate science.

3. Rapidly reduce carbon from our operations and products. We will take clear, practical steps to reduce carbon from running our business and the products we sell, reporting progress publicly.

4. Compensate for our climate impact. We will take responsibility for our ongoing emissions – our operations will be carbon neutral from 2021 and our own brand products by 2025.

5. Make lower carbon choices easier for customers. We’ll support our customers and members to move to lower carbon lifestyles, starting by price matching between our Co-op own-brand plant-based and meat or dairy-based equivalent.

6. Direct finance towards reducing carbon. We will align our finance, including carbon offsets and pension funds, to support lower carbon investments.

7. Help suppliers on the climate change front line. We’ll support farmers, producers and communities to transition fairly to a low carbon future.

8. Campaign for climate action. We will be advocating with Government to press for the necessary systemic change, including a call for greater climate impact disclosure and support for the most vulnerable.

9. Co-operate for change at scale. We will actively work together across our sectors, sharing our plans and solutions, seeking to align rather than compete.

10. Make our climate plan a priority. Underpinning these goals, we are linking the pay of our Food CEO to achieving our carbon reduction targets.

Image: The Co-op Group on Flickr

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